What’s behind our urge to share on social media?

Most of us take Facebook at, well, “face” value – a social network that “connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them,” as the site itself says. But peel back the façade of friends, likes, photos, apps and more, and you’re left with an extensive data set on human social behavior that intrigues scientists and psychologists alike.

From CNN’s first-of-its-kind list of “The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers” to AllFacebook’s more recent post on “7 Facebook Personalities to Avoid” and even Vanity Fair’s take on “The Six Most Common Personality Types on Facebook,”  it’s clear that we’re fascinated by the fact that human interaction has migrated online, and that it’s able to be observed so easily within the Facebook microcosm.

Consider this: Each month, more than 845 million people record and share intimate details of their daily lives, relationships and online activity through their friend connections, messages, photos, check-ins, and clicks. Couple that with predictions that the number of active Facebook users will reach 1 billion in 2012, and you can’t help but ponder the common thread that unites approximately one-seventh of the entire world population, inspiring them to share so freely and publicly.

Well, according to several Harvard University psychologists, there’s a definitive reason behind why we like to reveal our thoughts, views and opinions to friends, near and far. The research, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard’s Department of Psychology, even went as far as to claim that humans devote a surprising 30–40 percent of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.

Why, exactly, are we compelled to do so? The act of disclosing this information about ourselves actually triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by fundamental rewards such as food and sex, according to the study. Throughout the course of their experiments, the pair even found that some of the participants were willing to forgo money in place of disclosing information about their personal experiences!

Tie this back to us and our use of social media – and Facebook, in particular – as PR professionals and marketers, and we can get a much better idea of how to use these tools to connect with (versus broadcast at) target audiences, encouraging them to raise their voice and join in the conversation. And the more we practice this golden rule of social networking – keeping it about “them” not “us” – the more mutual success and satisfaction we’ll find in these relationships, both online and off.

How do you feel about sharing online, and do you have any particular best practices to share regarding personal/professional content? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

“Influencers Who Inspire” with Laura Fitton (@Pistachio)

Our influencer Q&A today is with well-known inbound marketing evangelist, Laura Fitton. Laura “@Pistachio” Fitton is the founder of www.oneforty.com, founder and principal of Pistachio Consulting, co-author of “Twitter for Dummies“ and the inbound marketing evangelist at HubSpot. We had the chance to ask her some questions about her career, her passions and what 2012 has in store for her.

Who has been the most fascinating person you have ever met?

My daughter, S. How cliched is that? She is so unlike me. She is so preternaturally gentle and wise. I watch how she is with her little sister and how she “manages” me. I learn so very much from her. Fascination is actually the perfect word to describe it. Gobloads of overwhelming maternal love, but also a great deal of fascination and respect for what is amazing and special about her.

 

What do you love most about social media? What bugs you about social media?

The humans. I love the humans, deeply, even if I don’t always express it well or understand how best to make them feel good about themselves. I love trying to help people feel more excited, become more connected and try things that they might not otherwise give themselves the chance to try.

 

As a busy mom of two, how do you prioritize?

Pretty poorly, sometimes.  One thing I do well is rotate priorities over time. For example, my kids missed out on a lot of time and attention during the crunch years of oneforty.com, and they’re getting a lot more of my time and attention now that my life is in better balance. When my childcare situation blew up at the end of February, I took it as a hint from the universe to do something I’d long dreamed of. I took a temporary 20% paycut to spend Tuesdays at home with my daughters. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to do that and I’m incredibly grateful to HubSpot for the flexibility (this alone should tell you what an amazing employer they are!). My youngest starts school full time in September, so I’m squeezing every drop out of the last few “home all day” months.

I also regret to say that I threw my (romantic) personal life completely under the train during the oneforty.com years. It was what I felt I had to do at the time, but it was probably a mistake. No biggie, lesson learned. We always grow from stuff like this. I’m really enjoying the process of establishing a new social life – both new friends and potential dates – and the cool events and activities I’m going to regularly as a part of it.

 

How do you explain your career to your children?

Some stuff – mommy had a company, mommy is at HubSpot now, etc. they know in great detail. I brought them to HubSpot’s last company meeting because it fell on my “SAHM Tuesday.” Ditto for General Catalyst’s big annual networking event. They’ve been to a number of networking events because I want them to see themselves as part of the technology, business and cultural worlds from the get go. Gratitude to Halley Suitt for encouraging me to try this years ago.

Other stuff – mostly around my “visibility” (readership, press, awards, hype about me) – they have little to no idea about, and I try hard to keep it that way. One hugely proud moment was S____ blurting out “Mommy, what’s Twitter?” in a quiet moment at a MSNerd networking event, only a couple of years ago. She knew I had a book and a company, but I try to keep that weird side of my life away from my kids. She has a vague sense of it now, but she asks “Mommy, will you share this picture of me with your friends?” with no sense of what that really means.

In general we talk about it in terms they will understand and can relate to their own lives. For example, they know about YouTube because we have watched it together for years, and they have their own YouTube channel now. But, I don’t link to or promote that channel from my social media accounts partly for privacy and partly to keep it a small, quiet place for them to explore.

 

What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Hands down it’s my daughters. Period. End of story.

 

You have always spoken about the business potential of Twitter. Do you still feel as passionate about this?

Yes. Very much so. I guess I’m a lot quieter about it lately. The passion didn’t go anywhere though. My Webvisions Portland keynote, planned for May 17th, should make that clear.

 

Do you have any hobbies or passions?

Too too many! Ice hockey, yoga, horseback riding, rock climbing, gardening, pets (we have a cat, two dogs and four chickens!), amazing food, adventure and travel. I’m lucky to have had the chance to reconnect with almost all of that since the acquisition of oneforty last August.

I’m training to do my first race – of any kind – this summer with the Tough Mudder at Mt. Snow in July. Ten to twelve miles of running up ski slopes, dozens of “bootcamp” style obstacles and electroshocks at the end. Somehow seemed a fitting way to mark turning 40.

My biggest passion remains trying to help people and make a difference. Coming to work every day to spread the story of how inbound marketing helps businesses grow – and therefore creates jobs – ignites that core passion very much.

 

What is next for you in 2012?

The rate of on-the-job learning for me at HubSpot is just awesome. I’m so excited to help get the incredible work HubSpot and its customers are doing more widely known out in the world, because I know that it can help others to a tremendous degree.

It’s amazing to be at a company with 6500 customers and a marketing community of MILLIONS of people. It’s even more exciting to realize only a tiny fraction of that community realizes that we’re a software company. We’ve been so selfless in our marketing efforts for years that some huge number of people think we’re an agency.

As that changes, and marketers realize we’ve got this really HELPFUL all-in-one software, we can help even more businesses grow while stamping out crappy marketing. We think marketing can be this really noble profession that provides incredible value to those who receive marketing messages. That’s the wave of the future – selfish marketing perishes and marketing that people love helps businesses thrive.

 

 

Persuasive Picks for week of 4/30/12

Women Are More Social – When It Comes to Social Media, That Is writes Entrepreneur’s Mikal E. Belicove reporting the results of Nielsen’s latest State of The Media report that shows women are the alpha players on the social media playground.

In How Products Participate In Social Media, expert blogger Matt Compton explains that the evolution of the Internet and smart devices has created an amazing fabric of connected lives and now weaves together people’s connections with things, and brands are starting to “participate” in new and meaningful ways. – via FastCompany.

Freelance writer Michael Estrin says there’s no longer a question whether a brand should have a YouTube channel. Instead, the question is, what should a brand do with its YouTube channel? Here’s his 6 lessons in launching a branded YouTube Channel on iMediaConnection.

Many businesses see their social media following as a list, without acknowledging there’s a human being on the other end. James Debono at SocialMediaToday thinks that they just aren’t “getting it” and gives 10 guidelines for Marketing with Social Media – Grow A Loyal Community by Increasing Your Worth.

Three tips for handling email overload

There may be some debate over whether or not email is dead, but take one look at your email inbox each morning, and I bet you’ll beg to differ.

As Peter Bregman reported in his recent Harvard Business Review blog, this affair with email is starting to really affect us in negative ways. According to an article he cited from USA Today, the number of lawsuits filed by employees claiming unfair overtime is up 32 percent since 2008. What’s to blame, in large part, for this increase? Email. And when you factor in devices such as smartphones, which we have with us – and neurotically check – at all times, there’s no denying that it’s quietly infiltrated our personal lives.

His advice for coping? Assign designated times to “bulk-process” emails and set designated non-email times, resisting the urge to constantly check email during these off-email hours.

Now, before we all balk and say that this is completely unrealistic, especially in a service industry such as PR where we’re expected to be on top of breaking news and at the beck and call of clients ‘round the clock – I believe that his is an argument worth hearing. We have to remember that the ability to be available and respond swiftly to inquiries is only one facet of the value that we’re able to provide as PR professionals. Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics; our focus on building important relationships and relaying vital information back to an organization for analysis and action can have real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals. And this often takes time, focus and uninterrupted thinking.

Consider this, for example: Research in the UK revealed that employees working on a computer typically switched applications to view their emails as many as 30 or 40 times an hour, for anything from a few seconds to a minute. Dr. Karen Renaud, who carried out the study, said quite simply that email has gotten out of hand:

“Email harries you,” she said in an article in the UK’s Daily Mail. “You want to know what’s in there, especially if it’s from a family member or friends, or your boss, so you break off what you are doing to read the email. The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you’ve lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive. People’s brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive.”

This brings us back to Bregman’s point. He’s not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bath water and abandon all established email etiquette when it comes to keeping up with the daily workflow. Rather, he’s proposing that we merely try to be more mindful about it. For example, when you set up designated intervals to handle emails, you’ll be working for that express purpose, effectively making you more focused and efficient on the task at hand. We have our heads down during these email-only times, and waste less time transitioning from one activity to another in a blur of information.

The hardest part is resisting the urge to check…and check…and check…which has likely become more of a reflex than a deliberate action. So until you can resist temptation and set up some real boundaries between you, your inbox and your daily to-do list, here are a few ideas to help make the detachment process a little less painful:

1. Stop it at the source. Whenever possible, try to reduce the amount of junk email that enters your inbox on a daily basis. Set up a spam filter, unsubscribe from unnecessary email newsletters and turn off automatic notifications.

2. Realize that hoarding won’t help you. Many of us like to let emails linger in our inbox, keeping them in digital limbo until we decide exactly what do to with them. It’s a matter of personal preference, but if you find that this system just isn’t working for you, try a more aggressive approach with filing and deleting.

3. Think before you hit send. And unless it requires a direct response, don’t do it. Tim Ferris spoke with blogger Robert Scoble about how he stays on top of tens of thousands of emails, revealing that “replying to more people more often — the goal of most people — actually creates more work instead of cutting it down.”

What are your favorite tips for cutting down on email chaos? Please share with us in the comments below!